Recently a colleague told me about the virtual reality site 'Second Life'. It's an online world in which you create an 'avatar' or a virtual self. Of course the new you does not have to look like you or sound like you, but can be any alter ego you wish. The colleague asked how I might approach Knowledge Management in this new world.
As I thought about that and began to explore 'Second Life', I also witnessed a virtual team here in this reality experiencing communication breakdowns and a lack of ability to manage and share their knowledge. The 'real' team struggled to keep each other up to date and in sync while working from various coasts and on varied projects. The storming, forming, norming and performing that is natural for any team was causing breakdowns large enough to threaten their ability to survive as an effective group. They somehow could not make time to meet, keep each other updated on progress, or create shared visions around projects. Things were going awry.
Yes, there are interventions to be put into place, and behaviors which can be enhanced for this team. But if we are challenged still to manage knowledge and behavior across a living, breathing group of individuals, imagine how we might be challenged to do so in a virtual world.
'Second Life' might sound like nothing more than a pipe dream or a new fad, however major companies are exploring this virtual reality world to see how business can be done. In fact, business is already being done, if in a small way. More will come of this, even if it does not replace global commerce. Tools like this may well enhance it. I simply wonder how ready we are. We have not yet mastered the discipline needed for communication across offices, geographies, cultures, generations....and now we are considering doing so across realities.